“So, when are you going back to work?”
Oh, that dreaded question. I’m convinced it follows me every time I leave the house, with baby and toddler in tow.
Let’s file it under 'worst question to ask a new mom,' right alongside, “So, when are you having another baby?”
My preferred answer: "noneayadamnbusiness."
Instead, my palms get sweaty, eye contact wanes, and I suddenly feel the need to explain myself.
“I’m not going back to work,” I say, reluctantly.
Those six words, which are still difficult to say, have prompted the full gamut of reactions from supportive to disappointed.
Me -- the aspiring Globe and Mail reporter, would-be globetrotter and former spokesperson for the ‘I’m never getting married and having kids’ crusade.
“My girls need me at home,” I recite with a slightly forced smile. “I’m just going to focus on my family right now.”
But it’s so much more than that.
My decision to walk away from my full time job after eight memorable years was one of the most difficult I've ever made. I may have just been a reporter at the local newspaper, but I loved every moment. Newsrooms are like families that no one else quite understands, and my experience as a young journalist in my hometown was much more rewarding than I’d ever expected.
During that time I settled down, got married, and whaddyaknow, decided to start a family.
In the beginning, I wanted to do it all. My firstborn turned one and I returned to the newsroom with the same tenacity and flare that I’d left with. On my first day back, I stumbled upon some breaking news on my drive home. My journalistic instincts immediately kicked in as I pulled over, took out my camera and notepad, and kicked into high gear. I called my editor and raced back to the newsroom with that old adrenaline rush I knew so well, and put it all together just before deadline for the next day’s front page. It was just like old times.
Then, I looked at the clock. It was 8 p.m. and my daughter was already in bed. I had missed seeing her after our first real day apart. I was heartbroken.
It sort of went downhill from there. Weekends, nights, and overtime hours were taking a toll on my new little family. I was losing interest in the job I’d loved so much, but was terrified to admit it -- even to myself. But by the time I became pregnant with my second child, I knew my heart just wasn’t in it anymore.
I was haunted by my own headline: News reporter quits job to stay at home and raise babies on the farm.
What would my beloved colleagues and journalism professors say?
What if my children never know me as, ‘Mom, the award winning journalist’?
What if I’m ‘Just Mom’?
I couldn’t get it off my mind; it was keeping me up every night (along with a newborn). But a few months into my second maternity leave, I knew I wasn’t going back. I called my editor, for fear of having a full-blown ugly cry meltdown if I’d told him in person. I braced myself for his disappointment — he had, after all, been one of my biggest cheerleaders and mentors. I almost forgot that he was a father of two girls himself.
“We’re going to miss you,” he told me. “But I understand. You need to do what’s best for YOU.”
That’s just the kind of love you get from a newsroom family. I decided to close that chapter the only way I knew how — I wrote about it.
I can’t stress enough how much I admire women who successfully take on a full-time job and raise their babies. I think it’s totally doable, and it’s fantastic.
But right now, it’s just not for me.
Life is all about starting new chapters, and I am already enjoying this one. I’m doing more photography, blogging, freelance projects, and getting excited for what lies ahead.
And every night, when it’s time to tuck two beautiful girls into bed, I’m never a minute late.
I’m sure I’ll end up back in a newsroom someday. But in the meantime, forgive me if I don’t have a better answer to that dreaded question.
I’m not going back to work.
Because right now, Just Mom is all I really need.
Guest post written by Tara Jeffrey. Tara Jeffrey is a wife, mother, writer and farmer-in-training in Lambton County, Ontario, Canada.